A typical postage stamp is about 1.0 inch by 0.9 inches. The Swiss company Debiotech has created a miniature pump that is less than one third that size, and about as thick. This device is designed to be implanted under the skin to deliver drugs — such as insulin — as needed instead of having to resort to injections using a needle.
The clever design relies on piezoelectric ceramic disc that changes shape when an electrical current is applied. This drives silicon micropumps with tiny check valves to control the flow. It can deliver up to 1 ml of fluid per minute, in doses as small as 150 nl. The company rates the device as reliable for 25 years in normal use. And the was no measurable leakage from the device, either forward or backward.
The pump is fabricated using materials and processes that are common in silicon chip manufacturing. The company has done test production runs with yields greater than 90%, and offers the technology for licensing to other companies. If linked with biosensors that continually monitor a patient’s condition or levels of a target biomarker (such as blood glucose levels) this pump could be a part of a system that could provide unobtrusive, around the clock delivery of maintenance medications.